Welcome to Make it Kickass, where we help leaders of growing communities bring their people together with purpose and lasting impact. Join us as we explore how to make events engaging, exciting, energizing and profitable so that you can build a healthy, sustainable community. I'm Isaac Watson, founder and lead strategist at Kickass Conferences.::
And I'm Nessa Jimenez, operations Manager, at Kickass Conferences.::
Now let's make it kickass together. We're back, we're back. We're back with another episode of Make it Kickass. Hey, Nessa, how you doing.::
I'm doing great. How are you?::
Good, I am kind of fired up after this interview we just had with Jordan Hales. That was a really fantastic conversation. I mean, if you haven't heard it yet, go back and listen to it. What are you doing here? Because it was just ugh. I never regret having a conversation with Jordan. She's just so thoughtful and intentional and I'm very glad to have had her on the show to talk about all things about her dance ambassadorship, about music and movement and storytelling and all kinds of stuff in between. We even talked about colonial influences on our work ethic, what? Okay, so go back and listen to that. We're going to go a little bit deeper and carry on some of these threads that we pulled out from the last episode. So I don't know, I'm still just. I'm kind of I used to hate the word, but I'm a little gobsmacked by just like damn, that was good. So what do you think?::
What was your reaction to it? It was it was an amazing conversation, and it's always great to talk to Jordan. I always feel like when I get the chance to talk to her, I'm able to have conversations at a different level than with other people.
I feel like we get so deep into everything and it's just so satisfying because we're on the same level, on the same page. So I just love spending time with her and talking about anything to be honest, but especially like talking about her work, and she is so. She is so dedicated to it and an advocate and an artist, and it's amazing. And I think, with this conversation, especially the question that she asked was like who do we become as a result of our conferences? And I'm like that's such a good, this is so good, so good because it's such a simple question. But we could go down a rabbit hole with that. Do you know what I mean? And ultimately, I think that in the work that we're doing, that's what we're trying to get to right. So forget about logistics, forget about the actual things that we're doing. Our intention is that the transformation of changing people throughout that experience.::
Yes, this is the whole reason. We start with strategy and yes, I know strategy is not sexy, but we have to be thinking about what we want the attendees to do when they leave. Right, like, who have they become? What experience are we creating for them? What moments are they sharing? What is changing about who they are or how they approach their work or their life, or whatever the topic of the conference is we have to be thinking about what comes next. If we're going to design something that's useful and I love that Jordan was able to just tie that up into such a beautiful little bow, because that is just, I mean, that is a question that we all need to be asking.::
And if you leave an event that we produce and you are exactly the same as when you arrived, I feel that that's a failure. Yeah, point that we're coming together, something should be happening. I'm not going to tell you what right it all depends on the audience and what we're doing but something, some sort of change, some sort of addition, something should be happening while you're with us. And that's just the great question. To even start with with strategy right, starting an event, starting to think about wanting to bring people together, what do we want to do? What change are we trying to make happen for these people? And if we can't think of an answer, then might not even be worth doing, to be honest, right.::
Yeah, she said something interesting, which was that? Something to the effect of you know, people are not going to remember specific words that you said. They're not going to remember necessarily who was on stage, but they will remember how you made them feel and how they related to the other people, Something that I'm totally paraphrasing off of that.
But that that impact is what we're, what we're searching for here, especially with community oriented events, where it really is about the people who were there. It's not about you know, teaching a particular skill set or you know, having some like highfalutin speaker come in and dazzle everybody. It has to be focused on the outcome and the impact that you have on the human beings that are there to witness what you've created.::
And the way we get there is by bringing people in right. Yes, I think they're full humanity. Jordan says on this um, letting them be people, full people, not just a part of a person, right, Not just an employee, not just an attendee, but bringing in their full humanity into the event and playing with that. Um, I want to get your thoughts on that, particularly because I know she's so good at that. But I feel like we also share kind of that vision and that goal.::
Absolutely there's. There's a uh, an aspect of inclusiveness and inclusion in what we do. There's there's, like the I mean, this kind of goes back to this puritanical ideology around control of self and restraint and professionalism and, um, you know, all these things that that late stage capitalism are shoving down our throats, um, but we, we need to be reminded that we are, first and foremost, human beings and we are here gathered with other people and we are here to share in a moment of time together and hopefully we come out of it changed or improved or bettered or whatever that is. And the big thing that stood out to me as she was talking about the movement and the dance work that she does with audiences, is giving them permission to be themselves, giving them permission to move, giving them permission to act differently than they think they are allowed to. Right, because, like, there's some, like, um, you know, overarching, overshadowing, um, um, code of conduct that says you must be buttoned up and clap when the presenter's done and sit straight in your chair and just be a robot, right?::
Yeah, the unspoken rules, the assumptions that that people come in with.::
Definitely Exactly, and I I think that this is. I love that she brought the. This is this is true across a lot of workplace behaviors in particular. Um, I've had the, the roller coaster of privilege of being self employed for 10 plus years, um, so I'm very disconnected from the corporate world, um, but I saw like it, it's these little moments where, like just the other day, I was on LinkedIn and everybody really hates being on LinkedIn.
But right, and I was just like you know what this is bullshit and I just start typing. I'm like make make LinkedIn fun again, but not again. It never was.::
It was, it was never fun.::
Like why can't we bring personality, why can't we bring our whole selves and be a little silly? Like this is like a place for professional networking. But like if all you're doing is networking with robots who act the same way and who type the same things with their thought leadership and their industry experience and their recommendations of other people, then it's all just monotonous garbage in the end. And so like let's, let's add a little flavor to it. What's that going to hurt? Is that? Is that really going to cost you a job? Because you said something funny, yeah.::
I don't know. I'm sure there's sociologists that have studied this and could give us an answer, but where this idea comes from. To be professional, you have to be boring and compartmentalized and you are not allowed to be full human. It's so limiting and so boring and so anti human, like early on this season when we talked to Tara. I don't understand why that has to be. You can be professional and also a little silly and a little fun and a little joyful. I don't, I don't.
I don't get why there's such a like hard and fast rule against it. It drives me nuts. And the whole corporate thing which is like LinkedIn world especially. You see that like sorry, it's what it is, I'll stick. I gotta mark this later. So on LinkedIn, you see the way that it's it, people keep that going right. They don't necessarily agree with that rule, but they definitely follow it and they definitely like watch what other people are doing. So I love that you're trying to like give people permission on LinkedIn to be fully human and be a little bit more fun and themselves, because it drives me insane. But and the way Jordan does it with dance and music, it's so, it's really beautiful.::
Yeah, it really is. Um, I think the important thing for me, especially as I think about the work that we do and as we work with our clients, is that, as hosts and producers, it is our responsibility to consider the needs of the attendees and the crafting experience that serves them and gives them an opportunity to express or rediscover or get in touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others, and I think that that is just this underlying, foundational aspect of what we do. That's part of why we do the types of events we do, because, at the end of the day, it's about the people that are there. It's not about anything else.::
And creating space for that and for people Like Jordan mentioned the fact that people look for the spaces with the least amount of judgment, or that she looks for the spaces with the least amount of judgments and I think that as event producers, or maybe people listening to us as event hosts, that is part of our job to create that space right and to define, define those and I don't want to say limits, but the borders, I guess it's a bit of a word of where this can happen and what this means for people and what they can do.
And Jordan, as an MC, she's really good at playing that part as well of creating a space with with less judgment and letting people feel safer and freer. But I think that's the job of everybody on the production team or on the event side, I think.::
Yeah, and we, you know, we often see this when we do like structured networking activity or something where we're trying to get the audience to participate in and you can kind of define what, where the box is and the parameters of the box. But you can't force people to engage in a certain way. You have to respect their desire to participate. Jordan talked about this, with people choosing to turn off their cameras at a virtual event. Right, and I think this also plays into that moment I had in the interview where I was thinking about being in a in person, where you're part of a sea of the backs of everybody's heads, right, and so nobody's looking at you directly versus looking at a screen where everybody's faces are staring back at you and feeling like you're seen, and that can change the degree to which you want to participate in something like that.
The point of the work that she does and the other aspects of what we do is not to force people out of their comfort zone and force them to participate, because along with that comes some judgment saying oh, you are not doing this right, here's the way it's supposed to be done. Even if that's uncomfortable, the point is to create the space where they feel okay and vulnerable and like they can express themselves, and then they have the freedom to choose whether to engage in that, and that's, I think, where that magic happens, that those are the moments where you've created the safe zone, you've set the parameters, you've included people, you've welcomed everybody, you've invited them to participate, but it is them who chooses to engage or not or to which degree they're going to engage, and that's part of what makes it really inclusive.::
And that's. That's a needle. You got a thread because I hate events where they want to make you like you have to participate, you have to do the thing. I think I'm sure we've all gone to at least one where there was an activity and the host was like no, you have to do it and that that, oh that, makes everything just awful, like it doesn't matter how amazing the rest of the events is, just with you doing that like I'm out.::
And we've seen this with our clients when we've pitched ideas on on activities before. I've experienced this too. And yet there is a that needle to be thread, threaded, threaded, thread the needle is is so like there's a fine line between nudging people to the edge gently and encouraging them versus forcing them into it. And some people, like me as a more as an extravert, presenting introvert is like I appreciate having a little bit of structure around, an opportunity to engage with someone. So, like we talk about networking, years ago there was this networking event that we that I put on for the maker community, where we the structure we added was that they the whole point was to introduce makers to buyers, like retail buyers, and they we did a speed dating style.
You had three minutes, you got pitched and you moved around and it was just like it was lightning fast and a structure. But everybody opted into it who wanted to participate, right? So they already gave their permission that they were going to do it and you set the rules and for the most introverted or shy or whatnot, like you had your three minutes and that was it, and I was shouting in the megaphone the entire time and having the time of my life doing it and and yet, like the feedback we got out of that was oh, thank you so much. There's no way I could have made that many connections in such a short amount of time. I got to craft my pitch, I got to hone in on some feedback from people really quickly. Like that, that's the right amount of structure, whereas if you're just like if you say, hey, hey, everybody come to my party, and they all come to the party, and then you're like okay, now we're going to play Dungeons and Dragons, yeah, and you're all in and you can't leave until your character dies.::
That's not okay.::
Yeah, that's not how this works right. You have to give them permission. You have to give them permission to be themselves and you have to give them the freedom to choose to engage with them.::
Yeah, I used to be in a D&D game where the dungeon master like would make us stay for like over five hours, sometimes like six hour sessions, and and we all just like bounced after playing.::
I can't keep doing this Like this is just way too much.::
He was like way too into it. We're like, yeah, we want to have fun, but not after like five hours. It feels like we're trapped, like we're your prisoners. It's not fun anymore.::
Yes, so totally good.::
And yeah, and like I think the people who do that well are the people who make it look easy. Like Jordan, we talked about how effortless this seems to us from her and to some extent it's a. It's a talent and a gift that she's honed and and a muscle that she's exercised over time. But she puts so much work into it. Behind the scenes she has cultivated and curated that you know music library that I'm infatuated with, yeah, and and knows that music really well to be able to read the vibe and to be able to choose a song that's going to resonate with the crowd. And that's the same thing with what we do, like we work really, really hard behind the scenes to. In some regards it's kind of a shame because the attendees just like think it's so easy and effortless and whatnot. But that's the point. Like that's, we want to reduce friction for the people experiencing the event so that they can be the best people they can be at it.::
It takes a lot of work to make something like what Jordan does look so easy, and we do want the audience to not have to worry about all the behind the scenes stuff that has to happen to create those moments. But I think it is important to know the intentionality required every step of the way, way before you get to a venue, way before you even sell a ticket, to create a space for special things to happen. It's an art, it's a science, and Jordan has been doing this for years. You know she wasn't born like knowing all these things. She shared with us how she got into it.
It kind of sucks because it's underappreciated all the work that goes in. But also the point is that we want to create spaces for the people that are there. It's not about us in the background, right Like amongst ourselves. We can enjoy, we can have that whole conversation, but let the attendees get what they came here for. Right, yeah, yeah. And with one of these days you're going to like jump Jordan and like steal her her music library, because every time you talk to her you always bring.::
I just it's like. It's like if you know someone who has like a really solid collection of music, like, say, they have a bunch of records or something, and you just want to go over to their house and just and just like you know explore stuff and like let's put on this oh let's put on that.
I just want to spend a day or maybe a week or maybe a year with Jordan, just exploring her music collection and learning what she's learned and where she's traveled.
I loved that thought of traveling through time and geography and culture, which brings me to my last thing that I want to talk about and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this. We got into a little bit toward the end there, talking about Jordan's cultural background and other non I guess I would call them like pre-colonial or pre-Columbus cultural relationships to dance. Something about that stuck with me. I had been thinking about it all throughout that interview and I just had to bring it forward because so much again going back to like giving permission and this capitalist mindset around work that we have there's so much cultural depth globally around dance and I would love to hear your thoughts around your own relationship to dance and if you had one maybe you didn't, I don't know Mine was very weird coming from a deeply religious background, but I don't want to dive into that a little bit more Tell me what your thoughts are on that.::
Yeah, sure, so Jordan and I actually had an opportunity to have this conversation once, like a couple of years ago, but we kind of got to the point where we were talking about why do audience think that bringing dance into an event is so weird or so out of place, when historically, dance has always been part of important events. I'm Puerto Rican, from Puerto Rico. The Daino people are from the indigenous people of Puerto Rico and in all of their important ceremonies, their cultural events, their like coming of age things with their tribes, dance was always an essential component of that, and there are many indigenous communities where all of their important ceremonies and they're like negotiating with other tribes to end the war All of these things involved dance and it was extremely important to have the dance and for the community to participate in that dance. Right, I'm not talking about it Just the fun party. Of course they did that as well Dance to celebrate but dance has always been a essential part of important ceremonies for indigenous peoples and storytelling Right.::
Storytelling was very deeply incorporated into that.::
Right and to see how, through history, we can talk about how Christopher Columbus and all of his people came into the new world and did their best to destroy these practices and these cultures and these things. And to the point where today, we see dance as it's just fun, it's just silly, it doesn't mean anything, right? Or only certain types of dance have cultural significance, like ballet is important, but rappers and people dancing to rap music that's not right. Yeah, so we got into that, and how dancing and the movement of body at events has always been a thing and it's always been an important thing, and we've lost that. So we have an opportunity to bring that back.::
Yes, I think, even looking at like more modern American history in the 20th century and seeing the movements, the shift from I'm not a music historian so I may be getting some of this wrong but like the rise of rock and roll in particular, which was appropriated from black American culture and but was then, you know, puritanically viewed as this, like music of the devil.
It was teaming with sex and drugs and this, that and the other.
They felt the same way about jazz, which also originated with black American culture.he late nineties or the early:
This is probably tied to media in general, with the Motion Picture Association of America ratings and how those have shifted over the years and just this, this moral policing that our culture really likes to imbue upon the content that is created out there in the world. And this has gone on into technology and is still an issue today, but I feel like that a lot of that had influence over how dance and expression of movement was viewed at a time when the country was really coming into its own from a moral standpoint and and and this, this notion. I was a totally a tangent but, like you know, if America was supposedly this massive cultural melting pot, somehow all of these really vibrant, incredible storytelling, techniques and practices and movements and celebrations and stuff like all of that was erased in the process in favor of this white, anglo-saxon, puritanical, capitalist approach to self control.::
So don't do that, yeah, and yeah, we're now at a point where people go into conferences and they feel weird and they can't dance, and it's you know. All of that leads to this moment where we're not allowed to have fun and we're trying to figure out, like why?::
Yes, so in some, don't do that, let dance be OK. Give people the permission to move higher. Jordan for your stuff, like she's not a secret and she is available. Yes, she's incredible.::
I appreciate and appreciate how body movement it's not just a silly thing. I think that's also something that we should point out, where this use of body movement yes, it's fun, but there's also other important things that play beneath the surface.::
It can be serious, it can be grief, it can be it. I think that's what is so key to me is that movement and dance can embody every single human emotion possible, and that's part of why it's so beautiful, and I think that's part of why we need it.::
Thanks for listening to this episode of make it kick ass. We hope you found it entertaining and helpful. If hosting a community event is on your radar, visit get event lab dot com to take our free 30 minute training called community event mastery. That's get event lab dot com or use the link in the show notes. Make it kickass is hosted by Isaac Watson and Nessa Jimenez. Post production audio by Chris Nelson at Mittens media. Our theme song is feel it by dojo for crooks. Make it kickass is a production of kickass conferences and event strategy and design agency serving leaders of growing communities.